San Antonio River Foundation Developing More Reasons to ‘Discover Your River’

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As the Museum Reach and Mission Reach have expanded San Antonio River development and access, more people are finding new ways to explore and appreciate this treasured waterway. Today, we’re getting reacquainted with the San Antonio River’s enchantments and potential. But it took a massive and coordinated effort from visionaries, government partners, and investors to responsibly revive and develop it.

Back in the days of early settlers and missionaries, the San Antonio River cut a striking figure that connected communities and cultures along its 240 miles. In fact, Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture and famous for creating New York City’s Central Park, stopped by in 1856 and appreciated the San Antonio River’s beauty.

“It is of a rich blue and pure crystal,” he wrote. “One could lean for hours over the bridge-rail” to enjoy it.

Then, the San Antonio River lost its way a bit. It became a forgotten blight in a developing cityscape. People failed to appreciate its position or potential and stopped fostering it as well as they might have. Hop on any San Antonio River boat tour downtown and the guide will tell you about a time when the San Antonio River was something of an eyesore.

It may be hard to believe there was a time when there was no such thing as a thriving San Antonio River. Then consider there are parts of the San Antonio River that are only recently being connected and nurtured. The San Antonio River Foundation’s stewardship helps realize our community’s long-term vision of a vibrant San Antonio River.

Olmsted would surely marvel to see, for example, how public-private partnerships have created a continuous linear park along the San Antonio River, with acreage more than double the size of Central Park. Stretching eight miles from Blue Star to Mission Espada, the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River Walk is one of many reasons to “Discover Your River.” It’s world-renowned, infused with art, amenities, parks, and infrastructure projects, and represents one of the largest urban ecosystem restoration projects in the country.

Projects like this reflect San Antonio’s destiny, but they don’t manifest themselves.

How the San Antonio River Foundation makes a difference

The whole San Antonio River is a treasure. Every twist and turn of it, from where it starts north of downtown San Antonio to where it contributes to the flows into the San Antonio Bay near the Gulf of Mexico, is a destination to discover, foster, and support. It’s a boon that drives a healthy tourism industry and enriches local neighborhoods. Along the way, it’s created more than $1 billion in economic development from the millions thoughtfully invested.

The San Antonio River Authority and the San Antonio River Foundation make an effective public-private partnership. Founded in 2003, the San Antonio River Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and raises private money for amenities and improvements along the San Antonio River. At the core of the San Antonio River Foundation’s work is fostering culture, recreation, education, and ecology along the San Antonio River.

Through public input, thoughtfully curated insights, world-renowned expertise, and top-notch execution, the San Antonio River Foundation exemplifies stewardship, vision, and responsibility. Since it was created, the River Foundation has raised $38 million of private funds for 21 art, amenity, and infrastructure enhancements along the San Antonio River.

The story of the San Antonio River unwinds a little more every time you walk along its banks, kayak on its waters, or learn about its ecology and restoration. All of the enchanting experiences along the San Antonio River evoke its character. Iconic elements like the Pearl Brewery Turning Basin and portals that more seamlessly connect the river to the missions via public art pieces like Arbol de la Vida (coming soon to the Mission Espada Portal) are just a few examples. The River Foundation has raised money and planned and developed the human elements that are transforming the San Antonio River into a destination with more to discover.

A principled approach

It takes diverse resources and dedicated partners to help drive the San Antonio River Foundation. It also takes a strong vision grounded on clear guiding principles: culture, recreation, education, and ecology. The River Foundation keeps these core principles in mind with every project and enhancement. The organization’s stewardship helps create broader access to programs and opportunities for more people to appreciate the San Antonio River.

Countless ways to Discover Your River

With long-term partnerships and diverse stakeholders the San Antonio River Foundation is developing more reasons to “Discover Your River.” So far, the River Foundation has shepherded amenities along 10 miles of thoughtful development along the Mission Reach and Museum Reach, providing added beauty and enjoyment beyond the historic River Walk.

Of course, Confluence Park is where the San Pedro Creek meets the San Antonio River, and it’s also where all four of the San Antonio River Foundation’s guiding principles come together. Created with $11 million in River Foundation donations, Confluence Park isn’t even one year old and already has impacted thousands of visitors. Students and teachers have participated in educational programs to expand their knowledge and stewardship for the watershed. Confluence Park has also hosted popular programming like tree giveaways, concerts, field trips, yoga, and biking activities.

Support the San Antonio River Foundation

Just as the River Foundation is a purpose-driven steward of the San Antonio River, the organization is also an efficient steward of every investment made in its vision.

The San Antonio River Foundation’s annual fundraiser is going on now, and you can donate here. Donations provide sustained stewardship of the San Antonio River with art, amenities, and programs that may not be possible otherwise. Also, Amazon will donate .5 percent of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the San Antonio River Foundation.

5 thoughts on “San Antonio River Foundation Developing More Reasons to ‘Discover Your River’

  1. If you really want to make it world class, install water purification equipment, followed by bathing pools, beginning on the west side and San Pedro creeks. Nothing makes kids stronger than a swimming hole and the warm Texas sun (and a healthy diet). I guarantee you it will increase the health and welfare of our community. San Pedro Creek at Flores St. already looks pristine, great work on that. Imagine the communities in close proximity and beyond enjoying the summer days along our numerous waterways. Talk about an underutilized asset for the wider community🤔. Let’s invest in the necessary purification infrastructure to make this happen. For too long, we have turned our backs on this valuable gift from nature. The idea is already there in the San Pedro Creek Project. We should expand this throughout the city and county. As we use to say in military basic training. “Too easy Drill Sargent, too easy”!

    • Thank you for sharing your passion for our watershed, Rogelio – we’re interested in cleaner waters too. The SA River Foundation and the SA River Authority are working hard to invest in education, infrastructure, and stewardship to help our communities deal with pollution sources before they reach our creeks and rivers. We’ve made so much progress and pledge to keep up the good work!

  2. Scooters are ruining the enjoyment of the Riverwalk. Enforcement needs to keep them off the sidewalk so pedestrians can walk freely and not worry about avoiding rambling, weaving scooters.

  3. I own Restaurant Gwendolyn, whose patio hangs over the river. It’s beautiful when it is.

    For almost a decade now I’ve leaned on the iron railing and watched that water go by, ducks and trash, river barges and cranky gardeners. At times the fish are thriving, other times the fish are floating on its surface. As far as water quality goes, I have seen thousands of fish munching the grime off the stones at the edge, water snakes (recently I saw a water moccasin actually catch and drag a fish fifty feet downriver), and an uncountable number of hatchling duckies paddling after their mamas. The biodiversity seems to come and go. Anyone who cares about water quality should know: the drain holes from the streets up above are connected to the outlets at river level. So many times I’ve watched it rain hard out my windows–it pounds all the black stuff off the streets of downtown (and who knows what all is on those streets), and goes into that sluice and pours right into the river beneath the bridge…a whirling stream of black chocolate muck dissipating like a plume of smoke into the water beyond. Makes my insides crunch up.

    I’m no engineer, but I’m afraid our drainage system is built in such a way that sending foul water one way and clean water another is probably an investment of impossible proportion.

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